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Katherine Menges

Cynthia Keller

SLM 509

20 September 2015

School Library Class Observation & Interview

This observation and interview was conducted at a suburban primary school located in a

moderately wealthy area of Carroll County. This school currently has approximately 450 students

currently enrolled in Pre-Kindergarten through Second Grade. I made my decision to observe

this librarian based on recommendations from several sources: other school librarians, members

of McDaniel Colleges faculty, and Carroll County teachers. Prior to this assignment I had hoped

to find time to visit this librarian due to the overwhelmingly positive reviews and commentary

that I heard from within the educational community.

Library classes at this school occur on a fixed schedule, but the librarian allows

individual classes to stop in for book checkout if holidays or other circumstances interrupt the

normally scheduled classes. I was able to observe one such book checkout session, since I visited

on a Wednesday and the school had been closed on Monday and Tuesday of that week. Students

are generally allowed one to two book checkouts at one time, with this number increasing for

older students as they earn the privilege. The class that I observed was comprised of second-

grade students and one parent volunteer.

During my visit I observed extremely high student engagement. Under the librarians

direction, students actively sang songs, matched books with categories, and participated in

answering questions and statements both nonverbally and verbally. Once the meat of the lesson
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was over, all students enthusiastically chose their books to checkout and then read quietly. I was

favorably impressed with the student and overall class behavior: there was no calling out and

students seemed very well accustomed to reading to self in line as they checked out their books

and waited on those who were in line behind them.

As students first entered the library, they politely greeted the librarian and calmly sat on

the story time rug in the reading area of the library. This routine is clearly well established and

the students seem to understand exactly what they are expected to do. The librarian began the

lesson with a worm puppet (with a graduation cap; its an educated worm) who had a nightmare.

The puppets name was Booky, and he dreamed that all of the books were off of the shelves and

out of order, but he emphatically told us that he did NOT make this mess. In his dream, the

librarian came in and said in a scary voice that it all needed to be cleaned up Immediately!

This made Booky very scared and he just did not know where to begin; luckily then he woke up

and saw that everything was, in fact, still in order. This is a good thing, because it would take a

LONG TIME to get everything back on the shelves and in the right place, and he was not sure

that he could figure out where everything goes.

From here, the librarian transitioned into the lesson and asked a student to check the class

mailbox, where there was an invitation to a Halloween party. The party was to be held in the

500s neighborhood, where Dinosaurs, Plants, Insects, and other animals live. The librarian then

said that she was also thinking of throwing a party, and that she would have to know what

neighborhood each of her guests lives in, in order to send invitations that would arrive in time.

Next to her rocking chair, the librarian had a magnetic felt board/easel on which several

books were resting. Attached to the board were several subjects. At this point, the librarian

reminded her class of a song that they all seemed to know: Nonfiction, information. If you want
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information, you want: NONFICTION! By the third repetition all students were gleefully

singing along loudly. This transitioned into calling one student to the front of the room, to

identify the 500s section and retrieve one of the Plexiglas signs above the section. This student

then called on peers to come to the front of the class and match books from the easel with

subjects that had been stuck to the felt board with magnets. Books on dinosaurs, insects, plants,

weather, and mammals were all matched with their subjects; the students who completed the

matching exercise stayed in front of the class, holding their books.

With these students standing in front of the class, the librarian sang another song for the

students: If I have a question about __ __ __ dinosaurs, (student refrain: If I have a question

about dinosaurs) where will I find it? (Student refrain: where will I find it?) All together:

500 neighborhood. This continued with all of the subjects, until each student holding a book

had their turn to hold it high above their heads for the song.

Next the librarian explained that they would be using the information in the 500s section

in their classroom, with their own teacher: their next subject is going to be insects! Because they

all know now where to find these books, each student is going to choose one extra book, and

check it out for their teacher. This is a bonus, in addition to their two books that they already get

to check out: WOW! Three books, in second grade. This is a big deal. After a review of how

many books each student is allowed to choose based on how many they already have at home

some students will only be choosing a book for their teacher, since they still have two at home

the book selection and checkout process began. The librarian stationed herself in the 500s to aide

in choosing an appropriate insect book for each student, and students independently chose their

personal reading books.


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After selecting their books and checking out, all students sat quietly at a bear along the

red part of the carped and read to themselves silently. This only required a few small corrections

of behavior by the class parent and librarian; otherwise, the students followed directions

perfectly.

After talking with the librarian about this lesson and observing how it unfolded, it seems

to me that this was a moderate level of collaboration: I believe that this was either cooperation or

coordination (Fontichiaro). From our discussion after the lesson, the classroom teacher with

whom the librarian worked to create this lesson sounds like a Concrete Sequential learner,

according to Gregorcs Mind Styles presentation. According to this librarian, many of her

teachers fall into either this category, or demonstrate more Abstract Sequential tendencies.

Luckily for her, most of the teachers in her building seem to plan well in advance and do not

expect her to drop everything to serve last-minute requests.

Prior to this particular lesson, the classroom teacher had discussed the first main science

unit of Insects with the librarian. Since they had previously studied weather and had not had a

firm unit of this nature yet, the class teacher requested that the librarian help students to select

books regarding insects as a sort of ice-breaker. Each student chose one book for their classroom

teacher, and had the authority to check out this additional book on the teachers library card. The

librarian taught a lesson about book location to the class, using puppets, songs, books, a

magnetic board, and other props. After teaching the lesson which included a great deal of student

involvement, the librarian allowed all students to choose their books for themselves and for their

class teacher. Although collaboration was not the sole focus of this lesson, I believe that it is

important that the teacher and librarian communicated about the best possible way to introduce
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this new unit, and I find it interesting that the librarian was the one to introduce the next

classroom science subject.

I believe that the coordinated effort between the classroom teacher and school librarian

helped students to associate information gain with the library. For many second grade students, it

is easy to forget that library books which have usually been for pleasure reading can also be

used in the classroom. This is a crucial point to make at this age, since students are beginning to

follow their own interests independently as they begin to read more and more on their own. At

my own school I find myself frequently helping students in second grade to locate informational

texts, so this lesson seems very valuable and relevant. By coordinating the subject matter with

the classroom teacher, the librarian helped her students to make a valuable cross-curricular

connection; by cooperating and allowing students to check out appropriate books to the teachers

account, the librarian illustrated an authentic application of this new idea.

The learning environment in this library was very open and nurturing before, during, and

after this lesson. Students were required to respond nonverbally during several parts of the

lesson, and approximately a quarter to a third of the students were actively involved in

illustrating book subjects for the rest of the class. After class, students received support during

book checkout and were encouraged to ask questions and talk about their selections. Students

treated each other and the librarian with respect, which generally indicates that this has been well

modeled for them in previous classes.

INTERVIEW: the Collaborative Process

The librarian focuses on building positive relationships with other teachers. She is very

involved within the school, and attends regular curriculum planning meetings. She provides
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material for classroom teachers to augment their lessons with both books and media, and

encourages students to read further about topics of interest provided by their classroom teacher.

Because she has been with the school since it opened, she is in a unique position to build strong

relationships with new faculty and to maintain the strong bond formed with original teachers

who were present in the initial opening of the school. She also provides professional

development opportunities related to technology via emails and by presenting at meetings held

throughout the year.

In our discussion, the librarian said that whenever someone is hesitant to collaborate, she

ensures that she is fully supporting their students to the best of her ability. Usually this will grow

to encompass the teacher as well, before the teacher realizes that they have been working

together. This informal approach can prove much less stressful for the teachers who may not be

comfortable with asking for help or formally approaching the librarian to initiate the

collaborative process. By removing the formal hurdle of asking for help, the librarian provides

what assistance she can and opens the door for future collaboration.

REFLECTION

Students seemed to be active learners in the library that I visited: they seemed motivated

and excited about the material. I think that the added personal connection that thinking of Dewey

Decimal numbers as the books address really helped students to understand why it is

important to put books back where they came from, and to remember what the different

neighborhoods contain. By giving responsibility to the students for choosing reading material

for their classroom, student engagement and future motivation was also achieved.
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I believe that the collegial collaboration between the classroom teacher and librarian

helped students to see the importance of using informative texts. Linking nonfiction to

information is a very important concept, and showing that other classes use the same books as

the library is a wonderful way to illustrate the importance of books for learning. I think that this

allowed each student an immediate text-to-self connection by providing context for choosing

what might have been their first nonfiction book of the year.

Although I have a few takeaways from this experience, the best was probably the idea of

working with classroom teachers to lend a temporary class library, under the teachers name.

This is a fantastic idea for sharing information, illustrating that books are useful for classwork,

and allowing young students to gain confidence in their ability to choose books for knowledge-

gain. I am not sure that my second grade is ready for this, but I definitely plan to talk to my

teachers about this idea. As a close second, I learned the strategy of approaching the Dewey

numbers like a street address: you dont need to memorize your friends street address, but you

do need to know how to find and use it when you need it. Sending an invitation to our favorite

books is a wonderful way to make this into a game, rather than a work-intensive activity. Most

importantly, students will now know where to turn when they have an information need.

After this visit, I am not sure that I would make changes to this system. Although this

library operates on a fixed schedule, the librarians flexibility in working with teachers to allow

checkout visits when school has been missed due to snow days or holidays seems to mitigate

the constraints of this model. The librarian speaks regularly with her teachers and is comfortable

with occasionally introducing new units of study via books, using either informative texts or

fiction. At this age group, I do not see a need or even a clear opportunity to further benefit

students beyond what I observed at this early stage in the year. According to the librarian that I
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visited, additional collaboration is incorporated to later lessons; however, at the beginning of the

school year, students must first gain a basic familiarity with the library and its processes.
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Works Cited

Fontichiaro, Kristin. 21st-Century Learning in School Libraries. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-

CLIO, 2009. Print.

Gregorc, Anthony. Mind Styles. State University of New York at Cortland, n.d. Web. 16

September 2015.

Nies, Jan. Primary School Observation. Personal Interview. 16 September 2015.